Colorado’s recently launched Colorado Digital Service is looking to leverage the state’s technology talent to improve services for the state’s 5.7 million residents and foster innovation in government applications.
Modeled after the U.S. Digital Service, the CDS will recruit top technologists from diverse backgrounds into short-term “tours of civic service,” according to a press release. Established in 2014, the USDS brings private sector IT experts into government for limited-time stints to help federal agencies’ IT teams solve complicated and long-standing tech challenges.
The CDS wants to follow that approach by bringing in small teams of senior engineers, designers and product managers to work with government employees on “user-centered solutions to Colorado's most pressing technical challenges,” according to the release.
Colorado Wants to Modernize How It Delivers Services
Colorado CIO Theresa Szczurek told StateTech at the NASCIO 2019 annual conference in October that one of the state’s IT modernization goals under Gov. Jared Polis is to deliver “virtual access anywhere, anytime” for state residents and “to provide government services remotely so people don’t have to come in” to physical offices to get access to services.
The CDS will use modern product management and engineering approaches, such as agile development methodologies and DevSecOps, to “offer a fast-paced, innovative delivery process built on technology best practices,” the release notes.
Szczurek and the Office of Information Technology have been working on proofs of concept for artificial intelligence-powered chatbots and other innovative technologies in the state’s new innovation lab. “We are wanting to fail fast, so if it’s not working, we want to know right away and move beyond it,” she says. “And those that are working, we want to establish a proven case study, so that we can understand how it’s operating, what the benefits are. And then, we would be able from there to leverage it and take it to many other places within the state.”
Jennifer Pahlka, who helped set up the USDS while serving as the federal government’s deputy CTO, told StateScoop the launch of the CDS is a “great move.”
“It will help the state serve its people in the way the people know is possible: with efficiency, effectiveness, dignity and respect,” said Pahlka, who also founded digital-government nonprofit Code for America and “informally” advised Colorado on the CDS launch.
Colorado is not the only state taking steps to transform how it delivers digital services. For example, Pennsylvania aims to create a single sign-on system for residents to access all state services. Another project seeks to establish a single phone number for residents to call to get access to services. A third focuses on developing more robust ways to collect public feedback.
And, as StateScoop notes, another example is Digital Services Georgia, “which was founded in 2017 to overhaul the look and functionality of that state’s websites.”